This morning I awoke to a cough emerging from the adjacent room. I opened my eye and noted the time on the clock was 3:55 am. When Jack wakes in the night it's always at either 11pm or 4am. I listened for other noises but heard none so I closed my eye... less than a minute later there was another singular cough... then another followed by some grumbling that I've come to know as my cue to get up.
I opened Jack's door to find him sitting up in his bed coughing a very deliberate cough. I brought him a drink of water and turned up his light a little bit. Jack sipped the water and then said Daddy I've got something to tell you. I've swallowed a penny. Imagine my delight.
The story was that he'd woke up a few minutes before, found the penny, put it in his mouth and accidentally swallowed it.
My immediate reaction was not that of great concern, despite the obvious hygiene concern hundred of kids swallow all sorts of loose change every day and it's really not that big of a deal. I no doubt swallowed more than my fair share. So I calmly asked a couple of question to try to at least establish what size of coin we were dealing with.
I got it from my pirate set. Now my concern was growing a bit. Jack keeps a couple of coins in his 'secret pocket' on his bed for protection (don't ask I have no idea why he needs coins for protection) and at this point I'd noticed that one of them was missing. I found a regular penny and asked him if that was the type of penny he had swallowed. No it was a penny from my pirate thing. I snatched the remaining coin out of the pocket and looked it over. The coin is made of plastic, the edges are somewhat jagged and is just slightly larger than a 10p piece or a quarter. I asked him over and over if he was sure he'd swallowed a coin like it and he told me again and again that he had... I thought about this for a few minutes. The coin was huge and with it's edges it's more likely that I would have been performing the Heimlich if he'd really swallowed it, but then again... after a few minutes I roused Helen and told her that I thought we had a problem.
We arrived in Stafford A&E about 4:40am. Jack wasn't happy about going to the hospital, he likes his sleep, and he was less happy about not having breakfast or anything else to eat before we went. The hospital was practically empty except for a somewhat condescending doctor and very strung-out looking nurses. Despite the hour they were all very friendly, they quickly checked him over and ordered and X-ray. It was obvious that they were as skeptical as I was that he was physically capable of swallowing such a coin but they, like us, weren't entirely willing to risk it. We were escorted through dark empty halls to the radiologist, who obviously has just been woken up. She too looked at us with disbelief when we showed her the coin but she took the X-Ray and gave Jack a sticker which he proudly bore on his pajama top. They then sent us back to the Doctor who checked the X-ray and confirmed my suspicion, no sign of a coin.
We got back home a few minutes before 6am and thankfully Jack happily went back to sleep. Jack and I had a busy morning of playgroup and dentists appointments, poor Helen had to be up in half an hour for an early appointment.
So that's how we spent our morning. Jack and I slept in until 9 and still managed to make play group and our dental appointments on time. Helen napped in the afternoon. Jack still insists that he swallowed the coin, it's just disappeared, or somebody stole it from my tummy. I haven't gone looking for it yet.
So this is the start of the family A&E reputation for us. We already have to explain away Jack's many bruises each week at nursery so now I guess this is just the next level, instead of signing the little disclaimer for the CSA girl we're now signing them for an admissions nurse. I think Jack learned his lesson but we've removed all coins and other items of similar size from his bedroom just to be safe.